Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Visiting Ken and Becky Miller and their Sugar Creek Winery in Missouri, USA

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Ken and Becky Miller and Becky Miller's son, Christopher Lorch

Sugar Creek Winery is a boutique winery about an hour away (by car) from St. Louis in Missouri.

I visited Sugar Creek Winery recently with fellow participants of the Drink Local Wine Conference 2011 in Missouri. DrinkLocalWine.com – which is about is about spotlighting wine made in the 47 States of the US that are not one of the big three: California, Washington State, and Oregon - held its third annual conference on April 1-3, 2011, in St. Louis, Missouri. I have provided an overview about the Drink Local Wine Conference 2011 in Missouri here. One of the highlights of the conference was the DLW 2011 Missouri Twitter Taste-off; 20 wineries participated with 2 wines each. I have provided a general overview about the wine producing State of Missouri here. Missouri is relying heavily on French American hybrid grapes; I have written about it here. Interestingly, the first American AVA was the Augusta AVA in Missouri; see here. This is the first of the final three postings about 3 Missouri winemakers: Montelle Winery, Mount Pleasant Winery and Sugar Creek Vineyards and Winery.

Wine Producer Missouri

Missouri produces top-flight wine, although it does so with few European (vitis vinifera) grapes – such as Chardonnay or Merlot - in sight. Missouri’s more than 100 wineries specialize in French-American hybrid grapes and native American grapes like Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, and Norton - the latter one being the most prominent Missouri-grown variety. The State’s climate is harsh and humid and vinifera grapes have a hard time to thrive under these conditions, although recently there has been more interest in planting vinifera grape varieties.

Picture: Map of Missouri

Missouri’s wine history dates to the 1830s, when German immigrants established Hermann and the Missouri River as one of the main viticulture areas in the US, growing the American grapes that they found there when they arrived, including Norton. 50 years later, more wine was produced in Missouri than in any other State in the US. But then came Prohibition and brought Missouri’s wine industry to a halt. However, Missouri’s wine industry came back, starting in the 1960, in particular after French American hybrid grapes became available. Indeed, the Augusta AVA in Missouri is the first AVA (gaining the status on June 20, 1980, eight months before the Napa Valley AVA).

Today, Missouri has more than 1,400 acres planted in grapes and more than 100 wineries. Missouri is again a serious wine producer, relying heavily on French American Hybrids when it comes to quality wines. However, overall, Missouri has become a small player, accounting for less than 0.5% of total production in the US.

Sugar Creek Winery

Sugar Creek Winery is owned and run by Ken and Becky Miller, who founded it in 1994. "Great wines come from great grapes" says Ken, and it has been Sugar Creek's goal to achieve this from the beginning. Old vineyards have been replaced with popular varietals such as Vidal Blanc, Cynthiana (Norton), Chambourcin, Chardonel and Seyval Blanc.

Pictures: Sugar Creek Winery in Missouri

The property is beautiful. This lovely winery is situated atop a large hill, overlooking the Missouri River Valley. They have a large outdoor seating area where kids can play, while adults sip on their winery bought wine, or eat their food brought from home. The old turn of the century farmhouse serves as the wine tasting accommodations.

Owner Ken Miller says grapes for wine always had a place at his family table since he was a youngster growing up in Melrose Park in the Chicago area. His grandfather immigrated to America from Italy early in the century and carried with him a fondness for wine-making

Early on Becky Miller's son, Christopher, joined the family operation at Sugar Creek Winery. He spent two years educating himself about wine in the Napa Valley area of California, where he has worked in the Plump Jack Vineyard. He is now the winemaker. Christopher is a soft-spoken, straightforward guy. It was fun to listen to him.

Sugar Creek Winery produces about 5.000 cases annually and sells them mostly at the winery.

The Wine Portfolio

Picture: The Sugar Creek Winery Wines we Tasted

Dry Wines

Vidal Blanc

Crisp dry white wine fermented in stainless steel with French Oak chips added during cellaring/aging. Estate grown and bottled. Fruit forward with underlying tone of oak.


Hybrid of Chardonnay and Seyval grapes. Fermented and aged in French Oak barrels. Full bodied oak, butter and citrus tones. Chardonnay parentage dominates its flavor profile. Estate grown and bottled.


Dry red aged in American Oak. Soft red with bright forward fruit flavors of Cherry Lifesaver. Finishes with a smooth taste of cherry pie baked in an oak oven. Estate grown and bottled.

Cynthiana (Norton)

Native American dry red wine aged in American Oak. AKA Norton. Well rounded with hints of plum, raisin, and black cherry flavors. Finishes well with its own tannins. Estate grown and bottled.

Michael’s Signature Red

Michael’s Signature Red is a medium-bodied dry red wine with a taste of ripe fruit, berry tones and a touch of smoke. This is a Sugar Creek wine. From new vine to late harvest, fermentation to the final product, every bottle begins and ends in the hands of the family who owns the land, works the land and lives there. Every vintage is crafted by Sugar Creek’s winemaker, Chris Lorch, who spent years honing his winemaking style in Napa Valley. Today he and his family work to turn the challenge of an ill-tempered climate and the tough grapes born and raised to survive it, into great wine that is uniquely Missouri.

Semi-dry Wines

"Missouri drinks semi-dry. About 55% percent of the wines we sell are in the semi-dry style." said Ken.

La Rustica White

Friendly blend of Vidal/Seyval grapes, fermented in stainless steel. Slightly sweet and fruity start with a dry finish.

Birdlegs Blush

Chambourcin grape fermented in stainless steel. Skins of grapes are removed when it becomes a pretty ruby color. Light citrus tones with a lively finish.

Sunset Red

Chambourcin, Cynthiana and Noiret blend, fermented in stainless steel, sometimes oak chips. Smooth blend, plum in color with spicy berry or cherry lifesaver flavors.

Semi-sweet Wines

Boone County White

A blend of Delaware and Chardonel grapes, fermented in stainless steel. Refreshing, crisp start with floral aroma and melon tones on the pallet.

La Rustica Red

A medley of grapes make this sweet wine full of cherry and berry flavors.

Sweet Wines

Peach Hollow

Sweet white, concentrated peach juice, fermented in stainless steel. Light in texture, like biting into a fresh peach.

Blackberry Thicket

This Blackberry thicket fruit wine is brought to you by the Sugar Creek Family in Defiance, Missouri. Whether you’ll be drinking it at home or joining us at the winery, rest assured you’ve made the correct choice. Here at Sugar Creek, we use our special state –of-the-art technology and a little gazebo magic.

Raspberry Patch

Sweet red, Chambourcin and Noiret grapes with raspberry concentrate. Great chilled or heated with a cinnamon stick.

Dessert Wines

Signature Port

Cynthiana grape with a select brandy added during fermentation. Perfect after dinner or serve with chocolate, salty nuts, or Stilton cheese.

Picture: Sugar Creek Signature Port

schiller-wine: Related Posting

Drink Local Wine Conference 2011 in St. Louis: The World of Missouri Wine

The 2010 DrinkLocalWine Conference in Virginia, US

Drink Local Wine 2011 Missouri Twitter Taste-off

Wine Producer Missouri – Once a Major Force in the US Wine Market, Then Non-existant and Now on a Rebound with French American Hybrid Grapes

In the Oldest AVA - American Viticultural Area - Augusta in Missouri

French American Hybrid Grapes - Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Others

Visiting Tony Kooyumjian at Montelle Winery in Missouri

Visiting Charles Dressel and his Mount Pleasant Winery in Missouri

No comments:

Post a Comment